Do you want to make changes for 2015 that actually last? Dr. Annette Schonder from LifeWorks offers advice on how to turn New Year’s resolutions into habits that last a lifetime.
As we approach the end of the year, many of us think about New Year’s resolutions. We typically look to make positive changes in our lifestyle, family, work and community. We excitedly step into the New Year, and a few months down the road find that we have drifted right back into our old patterns of behaviour. Since New Year’s resolutions are important to us, let’s not give up on them, but handle them in a thoughtful way so we can make and sustain the changes we desire.
Make an honest inventory
Many New Year’s resolutions don’t materialise because while on the surface they appear to be something we really want or ought to do, we don’t explore the possible stumbling blocks. You might feel stuck in a boring, dead end job and resolve to find a more suitable job in the next year. Yet, next year at the same time, you’re still in the same position. What is holding you back? Do you fear failure or success, lack confidence, or do you need additional training? Let’s honestly look at ourselves to see if there are any underlying issues we need to address, so that the positive change we are seeking can take place.
Set goals carefully
Good intentions for the New Year might not be enough if we don’t pay attention to goal setting. It is important to set specific, small, achievable goals leading to a final outcome. An overall goal could be that you want to eat healthier in the New Year. Small and achievable goals on the way could be: Swapping sugary, carbonated drinks for water, avoiding fast-food outlets, and eating fresh produce every day.
Do some research
A very popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. There is a plethora of sound, scientific and medical information on reliable websites, as well as a number of weight loss specialists who can provide good information. Weight loss is a gradual process during which dietary changes and exercise habits are integrated into a new, sustainable lifestyle. Set your goals carefully and you will succeed.
We often have ideas that we don’t turn into plans of action. We want to go from thinking about it to doing it. If you’re thinking of working out more, a corresponding plan of action could be to sign up for classes, tennis matches, or make appointments with a personal trainer. If you prefer to work out on your own, then make it a point to reserve appropriate windows of time each week.
Inform people around you of your resolutions
When we tell people of our intentions it can deepen our commitment. If you have resolved to spend more time with the family or loved ones, have a discussion with them about how this quality time can be spent. Date night once a week with your wife or husband, a weekly game of Dominos, or a trip to the park with your kids can be beautiful and deep bonding experiences.
Bring a partner on board
Lifestyle changes are more easily sustained when we do it with another person. We can motivate and support one another in our endeavours to make positive changes in our lives. For instance, if you want to pick up running again, see if you can find a running buddy in your family, among your neighbours, or at work.
Allow a new identity to become a part of you
For instance, if you wish to eat healthier, start seeing yourself as a person who eats healthy. Healthy eaters make good food choices, cringe at the idea of a meal loaded with fat, salt and sugar, and appreciate foods with known health benefits.
Understand the habits
Two prominent New Year’s resolutions are quitting smoking and drinking less, or giving it up entirely. In both cases we need to understand that the pleasure reward system in the brain is implicated and it is not just a matter of willpower to quit. The reason so many people don’t succeed with these New Year’s resolutions is because careful education and support are required to set the stage for long-term change. There are a number of professionals, such as addiction specialists, psychologists or personal development trainers to assist you with this matter.
Aim for progress not perfection
Don’t get discouraged if you find yourself slipping back into old habits, or not working on some of the goals you have set for yourself. Rather than giving up entirely, revisit your goals and get back on track. Ask for support from loved ones and friends if you need motivation or inspiration.
LifeWorks Personal Development Training Centre, Al Wasl Road, Umm Seqeim (04 394 2464).